Sirte-The Field Hospital and Clinic at Gaddafi’s Beach Resort
This morning we drove for about two hours through flat, monotonous, arid landscape to the Field Hospital and Clinic in the beach resort of Gaddafi, 50 kilometers from Sirte. Signs for camel crossing are posted at regular intervals along the road. Occasional camel carcasses are seen on the road sides. At night when the temperature of the desert dips, loving the warmth of the tarmac the camels often settle on the roads and are hit by vehicles. Packs of camels walk slowly and patiently across this unchanging landscape feeding on scattered short clumps of brushes. Their breakfast, lunch and dinner are one and the same; scanty and unappetizing. Like the cats the camels must be wandering about the unrelenting bombings. There seems to be smiles on the faces of the camels. On our way to Sirte I saw the head of a camel hanging in front of a butcher shop, it still wore a patient smile despite its demise.
One of Gaddafi’s beach houses within the walled compound has been converted into the Field Hospital. It has 10 beds two of which are resuscitative beds. An annex room serves as a storage room for medicines and equipment. There was only one patient when we arrived. Later in the afternoon Red Crescent ambulances brought in four casualties, evidently fighting had heated up. The latest news is that the Freedom Fighters have reached the round-about of the city center of Sirte where the west and east flanks of the fighters convened. They have also captured the port thus cutting off the possible retreat route of Gaddafi and his forces who were fighting back refusing to surrender. Unfortunately many civilians get caught in the cross fire. One of the patients brought in by the Red Crescent was seriously injured, he was unconscious and intubated, blood pouring out of his mouth and nose. The Chinook that landed this morning at the beach would likely transport these casualties to the Polyclinic Hospital in Misurata right across from where we are staying. Two additional tents were set right outside the Field Hospital for patients who are stable. Several of the beach houses are being used as dormitories for the volunteers who have to stay overnight and one was converted to a labor and delivery room where I found my Misurata companion, Dr. Fatma. Helicopters and Chinooks arrive and take off at intervals bringing healthcare personnel and patients.
Muhammad, my translator and I were sent to the Field Clinic right outside the compound by the check point. It is a container with three rooms, one of which is really a room for storing medications. There were several doctors and medical students seeing people who were fleeing Sirte. Outside lines of cars were stopped and searched thoroughly by the Freedom Fighters. They flipped through their belongings and the folds of their blankets. The people were waiting outside their cars patiently in the heat with their suitcases. One Freedom Fighter approached me to look at a veiled woman to see in fact she was a woman and not a man in disguise. She did not wish to have a man peer at her. In the clinic I saw a young woman with a cut on her arm, that was cleaned and dressed and she and her father went on their way. Because there were so many volunteers in this crowded and airless container, Muhammad and I retreated from there and back into the compound. We had a lunch of couscous and some meat which I later found out was camel meat! It tasted like beef but not as tough as goat meat.
The beach is beautiful save for the trash that has been discarded by the current occupants which is regrettable. I tried my best to imagine the pristine beach before the Field Hospital was set up. There was a lull in the afternoon. Borrowing a long shirt and pants, I dipped in the crashing but refreshing waves of the Mediterranean Sea in a quiet corner behind some rocks away from the eyes of the Muslims in order not to be conspicuous or offensive. I wonder how many people could say they swam in Gaddafi’s private resort.